OK, I’ve promised a post about my conversation with Mileage Plus executives at the Freddies last week. For those hoping for something juicy, move along, there’s nothing to see here, sadly.
The one thing I realized from talking to Mileage Plus executives is just how convinced they are about Starnet blocking. I’ve been “fighting” this nasty policy for a long time, but now more than ever I’m convinced they won’t change their stance, no matter how much negative feedback they get.
For the most part it was the same old excuses. We have to manage our inventory to stay competitive, etc. I think I made most of the logical arguments: other airlines don’t do it, you’re annoying your best customers, etc.
I did bounce a couple of ideas off of them as well. First, how about not blocking award availability for top tier members. That was met with a straight “no.” Another suggestion I made (just to see how open they’d be to it, not that I’d actually want this to happen) is that they might want to consider charging a premium for otherwise blocked flights, making it a “standard” Star Alliance award of sorts. They logically responded with “Well, how would you feel about paying even more for premium award tickets?” Fair enough, and I’m actually kind of happy they’re not considering that.
The most basic argument they made was that just like any other department, Mileage Plus has a budget. If they didn’t do any Starnet blocking they’d have to take away benefits in other places. They feel they’re striking the best “balance” between other benefits and award inventory. When they try to simplify it like that, I don’t really disagree. Nonetheless I suggested a bit of flexibility and maybe re-evaluating their budget, considering the amount of money they’re making from their co-branded credit card, and that those people just earning credit card miles (as opposed to flying) greatly increase the number of people competing for an ever decreasing number of award seats.
I did get a few myths uncovered. First, Mileage Plus executives insist there’s no quota which is reset at the beginning of the quarter resulting in less blocking during those periods, which some people theorize. Second, on a different note, we talked a bit about Global Services. I’ve never been convinced that Global Services qualification criteria are market based (meaning having an address in Mexico gives you a better chance at Global Services than an address in Chicago, for example), so I asked them whether there was any truth to that. They insisted that it doesn’t matter where you live, as location isn’t a factor in determining who qualifies for Global Services.
So in retrospect were there any real surprises? Nah, not really. At first I kind of saw where they were coming from, and I actually found the “we have a budget” argument to be simple and logical enough on the surface, but that’s probably because I’m used to the totally ridiculous arguments they try to put up.
Of course there was a bit more detail which went into the whole thing on their end, but I’m not going to get into all of that.